We’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving. In my family, it’s not only a time when we celebrate being together and gathering around a giant meal that we have all helped to create, but it’s also a time when we celebrate being thankful for the blessings we have been given. As we begin eating, we go around the table one-by-one discussing the things, events, or people for which we are thankful. It’s a beautiful reminder that few things are guaranteed in life and how dependent we are on each other, even if it’s not always obvious in the busyness of life.
While Thanksgiving doesn’t happen every day, sadly, I still strive to continue this practice at home when I can. It’s one of many ways in which I work to teach gratitude to my children. When the kids are having a particularly bad day — maybe they are sad because their friends or classmates treated them unfairly, or they are jealous that a friend got a new gaming system — I find that having them list 3 or 4 things for which they are grateful (only when they are calm and not flooded with emotion) really does help to bring a smile back onto their sweet faces. This exercise also has the side benefit of teaching them how to help themselves see the bright side to things. I especially enjoy talking about things they are grateful for when they are in a particularly good mood. I tend to get a longer list that gets sillier as they go along, and it usually ends with a lot of laughter!
Another way I try to teach my children gratitude is by having them help around the house, so they can see the value what others do for them and to not take that for granted. Because of their school activities and sports schedules I have a hard time establishing a set schedule, but during the school week I do have them help put away their clean laundry and help bring up dishes from the table. I always have them clean up food or drink messes they make. On weekends I have them help in bigger ways, since we have a bit more time. Obviously, I’m not asking a lot from them, but I do want to teach them about being helpful and contributing to the work that must be done around the house. They see the value in this and, in turn, are far more grateful for when someone else comes along and helps them.
Raising grateful kids can be a journey with some bumps along the way, but it’s always worth that extra effort. Grateful people are happier people, and of course we want that for our children. If you aren’t in the habit of thinking about what you are grateful for, start today. List 3-5 things you are grateful for on your own every day, and have your kids join in when they are calm, like maybe during dinner. You can watch their little faces light up as they think about their favorite things and know that you are teaching them so much more than any textbook ever could.